February 7th, 2012
09:49 AM ET
11 years ago

Update: Fundraisers encouraged to raise for PACs Obama once denounced

Washington (CNN) – According to several participants on a conference call with major bundlers late Monday night, Barack Obama’s re-election campaign encouraged donors to fundraise for a Democratic super PAC supporting the president, marking an about-face on Obama’s position toward outside spending groups.

Obama has been an outspoken critic of current campaign financing laws, in particular a Supreme Court ruling that allowed the creation of super PACs. Until now he has kept his distance from the group, Priorities USA Action.

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But in the wake of the group's anemic fundraising, made public last week, the campaign changed its position. Earlier Monday, it announced to members of its national finance committee that it will use administration and campaign officials as surrogates at PAC events.

On the call, a campaign official made clear that after donors contribute the maximum amount allowed to the Obama campaign, fundraisers should encourage donors to give to Priorities USA, according to a source who was on the call.

"Bundlers" are fundraisers who solicit campaign contributions from their personal and business networks. The total raised is considered bundled through the individual.

Campaign officials gave guidance on practices and policies, stressing the importance that super PACs are legally prohibited from coordinating with campaigns.

Another bundler questioned the effectiveness of the new approach, explaining every large donor of means had already been approached for a donation by Priorities USA. This fundraiser said the campaign formally pulled back the curtain last night but most high-profile contributors had already been pressed in person to donate to the super PAC.

The source also said Priorities USA held its own cocktail party for heavy hitters at a national finance committee meeting six months ago.

"This decision was not made overnight," one campaign official said. "The money raised and spent by Republican super PACs is very telling. We will not unilaterally disarm."

Additional concern about Republican spending versus Democratic super PAC spending was expressed on the campaign call Monday night, underlining the group's need to turn up the pressure and meet its fundraising goals, a source said.

Through the third party groups, Democrats and Republicans can run negative ads without the candidates they support signing off at the end of the commercials, as they’re required to do in ads paid for by the campaigns.

Super PACs can put distance between the president and attacks on his Republican opponent. On Monday, senior administration officials reaffirmed that they believe the race will be close.

Parallels to the president’s change of heart on campaign finance were also seen in the last election cycle. In the 2008 race, he initially embraced public financing but became the first candidate to reject it. Obama then went on to make history raising $750 million for his campaign.

Since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that paved the way for super PACs, Obama has been an outspoken critic of the effect they have on politics.

In October of that year, shortly before the mid-term elections, the president lambasted the role of outside spending groups, particularly those that are not required to disclose its donors.

"This isn't just a threat to Democrats," he said. "This is a threat to our democracy."

Some Republicans, meanwhile, have already hit back with charges of hypocrisy on the president's turnaround on the issue.

"Just another broken promise," House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday when asked about the change.

The conservative groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which plan to raise $300 million to help defeat Obama and his agenda in November, also responded.

In an e-mail blast, Jonathan Collegio, the groups' spokesman, called the Obama campaign's move a "brazenly cynical" reversal.

Also see:

Obama campaign to support super PAC fundraising

Romney says Obama infringing upon religious rights

Biden's 2012 message: 'Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive'

Rocky Mountain High expectations

Filed under: 2012 • Fundraising • President Obama • Priorities USA
soundoff (183 Responses)
  1. Jim970

    Waffle, waffle, waffle. Jump the fence, climb over the fence, perch on either side of the fence.

    February 7, 2012 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  2. gran

    Until the law is changed, he has every right to raise as much as he can to combat the "millionaire club" members who donate to the GOP. Go President!

    February 7, 2012 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  3. Tony

    Gotta fight fire with fire!

    February 7, 2012 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  4. Joe from Ohio

    Makes sense. You have to change tactics once the corrupt Supreme Court said unlimited money can be given to a candidate, thus now making elections "up for sale". Power to the people. Obama 2012!

    February 7, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  5. Bob

    Hope and change! Oh, wait....

    February 7, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  6. pjc722

    I understand you have to compete to win and in competing you must take up a SUPERPAC but when does one word stands for anything? For months he has denounced them as "wrong" and now only because he sees them as not being able to be stopped he jumps into the fray with his own? I just think it's ridiculous. It was the same story during his first election and everything else he has said. If you want to stand firm, STAND FIRM ON AN ISSUE.

    DO NOT START BLAMING THE REPUBLICANS FOR SUPERPAC's IF YOU ARE NOW USING ONE. YOU CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS, denounce it as wrong and take it up and still denounce it.

    February 7, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  7. joe

    haaa.. more proof there is no diff between the two parties. wall street funded presidents..all of them since JFK.
    Dr. Ron Paul wont even talk to small lobbying groups. Search your hearts, souls and minds America.. he is the only one who cares about us.

    February 7, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  8. Chris

    This is just another way for the rich and corporations to give more money then they are allowed to, to a candidate. This along with "legal" lobbying groups need made against the law.

    February 7, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
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